Standing at the sink, arms plunged to the elbows in muddy water and a swirling mass of dandelion leaves; I wonder how I have managed to get myself into this state of self-inflicted drudgery.
In fact it all started with a truffle. Friends of ours had come round for lunch, bringing with them the habitual bottle of wine and a cubic centimetre of truffle. The truffle, or what was left of it had been dug up by their neighbour’s dog. The neighbours had cut a bit off, made an omelette and given the rest to our friends. They had done the same before giving it to us. I put the smelly, brown lump gingerly in the fridge and wondered whether we would be its last owners.
In the face of this extraordinary act of generosity, we felt that we could not decline our friends’ request to scour the meadows surrounding the farm for dandelion leaves. The leaves are a local delicacy and are eaten raw, covered with walnut oil, anchovies, hard boiled egg and enough garlic to dissolve the salad spoons.
I have grovelled around on the ground for many things, since I first arrived here. I have had limbs raked from brambles whilst searching for chanterelle mushrooms and the often elusive sanguins. I have put my life on the line in the name of an after dinner liquor called genepy, whose flowers only grow on the rocky outcrops of very tall mountains. But I have never spent a Sunday afternoon bent double in a field rummaging for what I have always considered to be a weed.
Three carrier bags later, victory was declared and the dandelion leaves were hauled back for ulterior soaking, cleaning and drying.
That evening, my husband got the tiny piece of truffle out of the fridge and for a moment I wondered who the next lucky recipient would be. It must have been too small however to be cut in half; instead he got the grater out of the drawer and with an unmistakable gleam in his eye went to fetch some eggs.